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Full text of "[Letter to] Dear Mr. Rae [manuscript]"

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Geneva (Switzerland), Aug. 30, 1867. 

Dear Mb. Rae — When I saw you in London, 
you will remember that I declined giving a specific 
promise to attend the Crystal Palace Temperance 
Fite on the 3rd of September ; though I strongly ex- 
pressed both my wish and my purpose to do so, 
should circumstances prove favourable. If I failed 
to come in person, I pledged to send you my testi- 
mony in the shape of a letter, to be used as you 
might think proper. That pledge I shall now redeem, 
not being able to be present for reasons which are deci- 
sive, but whicb it is unnecessary here to specify. I 
shall deeply regret any disappointment that may be 
caused by my non-appearance. My heart is, and for 
forty years has been, thoroughly in your noble cause ; 
and it would give me the very highest gratification 
to witness so grand an assemblage of its true and un- 
daunted friends. My own disappointment, therefore, 
will be duly appreciated. 

What can I say, that has not alreadj' been said 
and repeated a million times over, in words of warn- 
ing, entreaty, affection, and love, respecting the omni- 
present curse of intemperance, and the solemn duty 
of all who claim to be animated by the sentiments of 
humanity, or governed by the principles of Chris- 
tianity, to labour for the removal of that cuise frcm 
the earth by an uncompromising testimony against 
the habitual or moderate use of intoxicating drinks ? 
The sure, the only remedy is to be found in obedience 
to the saving injunction, " Touch not, taste not, 
handle not." There are many evils of colossal 
dimensions, which are merely local, and bounded by 
certain degrees of latitude and longitude. _ The evil 
of intemperance follows the sun in its circuit, over- 
leaps all geographical barriers, disregards all differ- 
ences of climate, conquers all nationalities, and 
covers the whole earth with its desolating tracks. 
For the last three centuries chattel slavery has 
cursed almost exclusively the African race ; but in- 
temperance scoffs at all complexional, all tribal dis- 
tinctions, and, whether in barbaric or civilised climes, 
among " Greenland's icy mountains," or " on 
Afric's coral strand," — whether in Heathendom or 
Christendom, — strikes down its victims by the same 
process, and sends them to the same premature 

Undoubtedly, it would be taking an inadequate 
view to ascribe its awful prevalence wholly to any 
one custom or habit. It has its roots in oppression, 
ignorance, degradation, poverty, delusion, sensual- 
ism, a passion for abnormal excitement, the supre- 
macy of the animal over the spiritual nature, the lack 
of steady and remunerative labour. But its most pro- 
ductive cause, by far, is to be found in the intoxicat- 
ing and seductive quality of alcohol itself, and in the 
consequent use of it as a beverage, more or less 
diluted, among all classes of society. Moderate 
drinking is the immediate cause of all the im- 
moderate drinking in the world ; and when it is 
banished from society as a habit or fashion, the 
work of reformation will be transcendently glo- 
rious. Of the myriads who have gone down to 
drunkards' graves, not one ever purposely sought 
his miserable fate, or failed to find it through the 
trap-door of moderate drinking. As in the struggle 
for the abolition of negro slavery it was the so-called 
benevolent, tender-hearted, Christian slave-holders, 
not the brutal overseers and drivers, that constituted 
the body-guard of the infernal system, warding off 
all attacks upon it on account of their reputedly up- 
right character ; so, in regard to intemperance, it 
finds its shelter and source, not among its victims 
reeling in the streets or lying in the gutter, but in 
the persistent habits of otherwise respectable and 
often exemplary men, sometimes even reformers in 
other directions, who, holding the doctrine of total 
abstinence to be absurd or fanatical, and the use of 
intoxicating stimulants (in moderation, of course !) 
to be not only quite innocent, but essential to good 
fellowship, generous hospitality, and good physical 
condition, daily set an example at their own tables or 
at the festive board which is very potential for evil. 
What more can be done to arouse them to a con- 
sciousness of the fact that they are among the 
greatest stumbling-blocks in the way of the progress 
of the temperance movement ? 

Trusting that your vast gathering at the Crystal 
Palace, as now designed, will give a fresh impetus to 
that movement, 

I remain, yours, 

In the patience of hope and the labour of love, 
William Lloyd Garrison. 

Robert Rae, Esq.